30 September 2008
NY Times: S.E.C. Move May Relax Asset Rule
This move will assist in providing some relief in the current financial crises, but may plant the seed for the next accounting/financial scandal.
Under pressure from banks and legislators, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an interpretation of an accounting standard that could make it easier for banks to report smaller losses, or perhaps even profits, when they announce results for the third quarter, which ended Tuesday.
The S.E.C. said it was interpreting, not changing, the mark-to-market rule. Nonetheless, the immediate praise from the bankers could reduce the pressure to drop the rule and make it easier for some legislators to change their votes.
While the rule has been criticized by many banks, others have argued that the problem was caused by the banks’ purchase of risky assets.
“What this represents is the complete collapse of “small d” democratic politics in New York under the Bloomberg monarchy,” said Fred Siegel, a professor at Cooper Union. “He is becoming our Berlusconi. He owns the press and he is not accountable in ordinary ways.”
Gene Russianoff, a senior lawyer at the New York Public Interest Research Group and the staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit riders’ advocacy group, could barely contain his disgust for Mr. Bloomberg’s methods. “It shows a fundamental contempt for the democratic process, and it’s changing the rules to benefit yourself directly,” he said. “It’s egotism, and I thought the mayor was better than this.”
A lot more on this story and background at Information Dissemination.
The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview on Tuesday that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.
“We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, said in a telephone interview. “So we stopped it.”
29 September 2008
Why the Stock Market Drop Doesn't Prove that Congress was Wrong to Reject the Bailout.
It also seems that Speaker Pelosi needs to take some lessons on how to convince people. I wonder if she has ever changed anyone's mind on anything ever. I think she is too used to preaching to the choir back home in Berkley. Honey works better that vinegar, Nancy. No one seems to remember that Democrats have the majority in Congress. If more Democrats had voted for the bailout, then it would have passed.
I am glad that Congress is taking a breather. Calm heads need to prevail.
I dislike one idea being forwarded by some Republicans, and that involves changing the "mark to market" accounting rules. After their property bubble burst, Japanese banks kept the bad debts on the books at original value, a practice acknowledged as prolonging the economic agony in Japan for a decade. It might be better to keep the harsher, but more honest, "mark to market" rules and getting the pain over with, than to allow bad, unrecoverable loans on the books for a decade or more.
The Modern Whig Party proposal:
The Legislative and Executive branches of government need to at a minimum display some unified leadership to calm the market, and at most pass a bill that gradually purchases certain debts under independent oversight while also focusing on the root problem in the housing sector.
An additional proposal is to add an added string of requiring recipients of the taxpayer-funded bailout to allocate a portion of future investment in renewable energy once the crisis recedes. Whether you are for a bailout or against, voters are urged to write Congress and make themselves heard.
Another perspective here: 21st Century Whig: Republican Liberty Caucus on the Bailout
28 September 2008
It is now set for Jan. 26.
Kent was indicted by a grand jury on charges of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a female employee, making him the first federal judge to be charged with federal sex crimes.
The maximum penalty is life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Judge Kent should be impeached and removed from office, regardless of the outcome of this case. I explain why in my previous post regarding Judge Kent here.
It's in handy chart form.
The book doesn't only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book, but its authors are expecting that legislators and the courts will be too stupid to notice that, or to remember that the Supreme Court has declared teaching creationism an unconstitutional imposition of religion.Discussion here.
You can quit watching it at 8:53, where it turns into a McCain ad. But it's effective up to that point.
30Sep UPDATE: Link Fixed.
I know they say that the reason we don’t get great people running for great offices is because great people don’t want to be involved in politics. But Jesus on the dollar bill, THIS IS RIDICULOUS. These four people - Obama, McCain, Biden, and Palin - not a single one of them deserves the job they’re applying for when you get right down to it. Not a one of them, not even close. McCain is the only one who I think is actually smart enough, but he’s an asshole. So you have three dummies and an asshole running for the two most important jobs on the entire planet.
Honestly. If you saw any of the Palin clips, can you in good faith and true objectivity tell me that you wouldn’t rip her up if she was a Democrat, or even just someone you wanted to defeat for whatever reason? The woman truly does not seem to know what she’s talking about.
This entire election is damn pathetic. Don’t even try to tell me it’s not. But I’m still going to vote against Obama because he’s a socialist and that’s worse than not being very smart. What a choice! God bless America, or something.
$700 billion to bail out Wall Street. Has the government gone crazy? Two weeks ago it was $80 billion to bail out AIG, which was bad enough, but you don't pay attention and then there's the largest bank failure since the beginning of time, and no one is even talking about it because the President and Congress are going to give the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to spend $700 billion at his discretion to give to Wall Street investors. WTF?
What about the poor saps who paid off their debts on time? Or the small investor with losses on the stock market? Who is bailing them out? No one. And no one should.
It looks as if the bailout will pass anyway because our two political parties are covering each other's butts. Since both parties are voting for it, how to show your displeasure? We're stuck, aren't we? You vote against one, then you vote for the other. The two party system blows.
Slate: Why Congress Is Failing America
The other system—the process by which Congress and the White House make legislation—is an OK system in the best of times and a completely FUBAR one at the worst. It has many competent and well-meaning professionals in it. But it also has a bunch of incompetent malefactors.Pajamas Media: An Alternative to the Wall Street Bailout
The truth is the government's plan could very well cause the problem it purports to solve.There are a lot of uses for $700 billion, some of which are here: 7 better uses for $700 billion
But have you heard anyone in authority asking about the $700 billion bailout: How do you propose to pay for it?
And as usual, things can always get worse:
[I]mportant national projects are worth paying for. Especially when the projects in question are a sop to an industry that has asked for—and received—so much from Washington in the past decade.
Think about everything Wall Street has been given since the late 1990s: cuts in the capital-gains tax, dividend tax, and estate tax; cuts in marginal income tax rates; free-trade agreements; low interest rates; light regulation. The promise was that doing the bidding of the financial-services industry would deliver solid growth and boost incomes for everyone. It didn't.
This business cycle, in which job growth was generally anemic, ended with median incomes about where they were at the end of the last business cycle. The S&P 500 is basically where it was 10 years ago. Sure, we got cheap mortgages, all the credit we could eat, and some higher corporate income-tax payments for a few years. But now Wall Street wants it all back in the form of bailouts.
So anybody who pops up on television, or in a congressional hearing, to talk about the vital necessity of this regrettable bailout should be asked to give a sense of how much it might cost and then to come up with a way to pay for it.
Two-hundred-billion dollars? Fine, please delineate $200 billion in spending cuts over the next two years or $200 billion in tax increases to pay to clean up your mess. Which Cabinet-level agency should be zeroed out? Which benefits programs cut? Which component of the defense budget gutted? I'd love to hear what former Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld, or President Bush (who continues to cower behind Paulson's large frame), or Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, whose butts were just saved, have to propose.
After all, every dollar spent by the taxpayers cleaning up Wall Street's mess is one more added to the massive and expanding deficit, one more dollar that will have to be paid back with interest.
If nothing is done to change the way we finance Social Security, the trust fund reserves will be exhausted by 2041. This means that, in 75 years, there'll be a shortfall of $4.3 trillion—or about six bailouts.
Check out the Bacon Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake here.
27 September 2008
Perhaps they are running out of publicity stunts.
The most accurate take on this comes from AgWeb:
We’ve admitted in the past to being very scared of the animal rights movement. Cattle producers are sort of like the frog in the pot of heating water. Society’s ethics are changing so slowly that at no point do we realize that we must jump.
Latest example: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asks Ben and Jerry’s to use human milk to make ice cream. A stupid idea. One PETA correspondent calculated it would take 9 women nearly 24 hours to produce enough milk for one gallon of ice cream. Stupid.
So stupid that every news outlet in the country ran the story. While the beef checkoff is cutting its promotion budget, PETA is gathering millions of dollars worth of free publicity for its cause. PETA is very, very good, you know. Acting stupid does not mean you’re stupid.
As we’ve argued before, if you say something that is so stupid only one in a million people agree, you can still get yourself 300 stupid converts in the U.S. Say each of them coughs up a hundred bucks a year and you’ve got a nice business going. Say enough stupid things and you might wind up like PETA, generating $29 million a year.
We’re not going to have human-based ice cream. Some Idi Amin kind of guys, maybe. But nobody else. PETA knows that. They aren’t stupid. But you can bet the publicity has gained them more than 300 new members.
How did Centerpoint blow it?
First, The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) proposed new rules, modeled after those adopted in Florida, to improve the resilience of the transmission system, with new requirements for tree and branch removal, and to encourage the removal of power lines underground. Centerpoint, a private, regulated company with the government monopoly to manage the local electric grid, used its sixteen lobbyist in Austin to fight the proposal. The toothless PUC, which is controlled by the utilities, voted down the proposal just this past January.
The PUC was told repeatedly by the utilities that the proposal would cost too much. How much did not having electricity for over two weeks over most of the fourth largest city in the United States cost? Businesses shut down, workers not working, two weeks of school lost, several fires, worsening traffic congestion because traffic lights and HOV lanes were not working. All because Centerpoint didn't want to invest in the transmission network which was their responsibility.
Second, Centerpoint failed to prepare for the approaching storm. They failed to pre-position adequate restoration crews, again to save money. That is, to save money for Centerpoint. After first claiming additional linemen before the storm, they later admitted the additional linemen did not arrive until days after the storm. Surrounding utilities had a much higher ratio of linemen to customers than Centerpoint. The number of linemen did not increase to adequate levels until this weekend, two weeks after the storm.
Third, the information provided to the public by Centerpoint was both inadequate and inaccurate. Getting information from Centerpoint was extremely frustrating. The numbers of restored customers was inflated by Centerpoint counting areas restored if eighty percent of power was restored in an area. One-fifth of customers in an area remaining without power is significant, and should not count as being restored.
Fourth, and this may be personal, but if one more Centerpoint executive gets on TV and talks about what a great job they are doing, and how wonderful they are, and how lucky we are to have Centerpoint, I will completely lose it. That goes for their current nonstop TV ads with their slogan -- Centerpoint: Always There. Oh, really.
Fifth, Centerpoint may have wasted time in restoring power, but they wasted no time in asking the PUC for a rate increase to cover their costs in restoring power. They want millions out of consumer's pockets to pay for a situation significantly of their own creation. I would like to think that the PUC would respond to consumer sentiment and look skeptically at the request, but my hopes on this issue are not high.
Of great concern are the implications for the future. This was a Category Two Hurricane. Hurricanes get much more violent that this one. If a Cat 2 can bring Houston to its knees, then what does that say about a Category Four or Five? If a Cat 2 knocks us out for two or three weeks, then what will be the result when the inevitable happens? Millions and millions without power, food, water, medical care for six to eight weeks or more? What will we do then? Abandon the city and all move to Dallas?
Our local leaders need to pressure Centerpoint and the PUC now, while the memories are fresh, and move to strengthen and to improve the survivability of the electrical grid now.
If we wanted to live in Dallas, we would already be there.
19 September 2008
I understand that it will be next week before my area gets power. The schools have been shut down for over a week, and people are still lining up for ice and food.
It is clear that Centerpoint, the company that manages the local electric grid, did not prepare adequately for Hurricane Ike. More repair crews should have been positioned in the area before the storm hit.
But instead of asking hard questions, the local media has been parroting the press releases from the company about how great they are doing, and local officials are busy patting themselves on the back. Meanwhile, a week after the hurricane, over half the city is still without power.
Hurricane Ike was a category two storm. What will happen in the future when a category five storm hits? A review of Centerpoint's disaster preparations, or lack thereof, should be conducted.
17 September 2008
All I am aware of is that Galveston got hit hard, the feds are spending $80 billion bailing out AIG stockholders, that I can't expect electricity until after next MONDAY, and that my office building is closed due to lack of power. My last productive day was last Thursday. I will be so far behind in my work that I don't want to even think about it. My days have been busy sawing branches, cleaning up the yard, hunting for gasoline for the generator, and checking on the older neighbors and relatives.
Of course it could be much worse. After things calm down, I think I will invest in my own generator.
16 September 2008
As of Tuesday, the official death toll from Ike stood at 47, but only 17 were in Texas — and many of those were people killed by fires or generator fumes after the storm had passed. However, authorities held out the possibility that some victims were washed out to sea.
Amid the destruction in places like Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston, where row upon row of houses were scoured from the landscape, seemingly impossible tales of survival have begun emerge. Whether through faith or fate, luck or resourcefulness, dozens of people who stayed behind made it out alive, and have harrowing stories to prove it.
Many years from now, a small group of Hurricane Ike survivors will probably still be telling the story of how, on the night the storm flattened their island, they took sanctuary in a church — with a lion. The full-grown lion was from a local zoo, and the owner was trying to drive to safety with the animal when he saw cars and trucks stranded in the rising floodwaters. He knew he and the lion were in trouble. He headed for the church and was met by a group of residents who helped the lion wade inside, where they locked it in a sanctuary as the storm raged. The water crept up to their waists, and two-by-fours came floating through broken windows. But the lion was as calm as a kitten. When daylight came, everyone was still alive. "They worked pretty well together, actually," said the lion's owner, Michael Ray Kujawa. "When you have to swim, the lion doesn't care about eating nobody."
All God's creatures, I guess.
That actually sounds like a fun weekend project. Particularly since Pakistan is harboring Osama Bin Laden.
Obviously the biggest problem is the lack of electricity. Those who are living on generators for power need to restock on gas about every day. Every household who has electricity restored is one more that doesn't need daily supply of gas, ice and water.
Centerpoint Energy who owns the lines is working hard on restoration with the aid of many outside contractors from other states and even Canada.
I believe this is about the largest power outage in history.
14 September 2008
The cold front will introduce some badly needed dryer, cooler air. This will be most welcome to those who don't yet have power restored.
I would like to see FEMA and other agencies ignore the idiots and rednecks who ignored advice to evacuate certain areas, and help first those who followed directions and did the right things. Its curious that those who ignore the advice given by public officials are the first to demand help from those public officials when things go badly.
Godspeed to all who are working to restore normalcy to their lives, families and neighborhoods.
12 September 2008
A street over, a transformer fell off the utility pole and landed on a garage, setting it on fire. When the neighbor called 911 to report the smoke, they dismissed her call, and she had to keep calling to get a response. They finally responded in force, and the fire department doused the roofs in the area so they wouldn't catch fire. Like I said, little rain, but some wind.
The kids didn't want to go to bed, they think they are going to miss the hurricane. I assured them that there would still be plenty of hurricane in the morning.
I live about 60 miles from the coast, so no rain yet, just the wind starting. The coastal areas are really getting hit already because of a huge storm surge on top of a high tide.
Warned the kids that the wind will really be howling tonight and not to be scared if it wakes them up. Also told them that tree branches breaking will be making a lot of noise. They are all terribly excited. I told them that if we have three or so days without electricity, it won't seem so exciting.
Gallup: Battle for Congress Suddenly Looks Competitive
I had been thinking, along with everyone else, that the Republicans would be trounced in Congressional races this fall. If the poll numbers above are sustained, Republicans could re-take the House of Representatives. I find this news astonishing. Hat Tip: Instapundit.
Republicans, who are now much more enthused about the 2008 election than they were prior to the convention, show heightened interest in voting, and thus outscore Democrats in apparent likelihood to vote in November. As a result, Republican candidates now lead Democratic candidates among likely voters by 5 percentage points, 50% to 45%.
If these numbers are sustained through Election Day -- a big if -- Republicans could be expected to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
As Gallup's long-term "generic ballot" trend shows, the Democrats held a sizable lead on this measure from the time they won back control of Congress in the fall of 2006 through last month. If the current closer positioning of the parties holds, the structure of congressional preferences will be similar to most of the period from 1994 through 2005, when Republicans won and maintained control of Congress.
Hugo Chavez, seeing oil prices fall, is desperate for an external enemy on which to blame the coming financial collapse.
The US State Department on Friday ordered the Venezuelan ambassador here expelled, amid tit-for-tat expulsions with both Venezuela and Bolivia that also added a twist to US-Russian tensions.
The US Treasury said meanwhile it was freezing any US assets of two senior Venezuelan intelligence officials and a former interior minister after accusing them of aiding Colombian rebels involved in drug trafficking. And Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned meanwhile that his country will act militarily if his embattled ally Evo Morales in Bolivia is toppled, after highlighting the arrival this week of two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers.
An increased Russian military presence in Latin America has added a twist to Washington's growing tensions with Moscow over last month's Russian military incursion into US-backed Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he regretted the expulsions by Caracas and La Paz, but claimed they reflected the "weakness and desperation" of both leaders.
The girls' crime: they dared to defy the will of their fathers and the customs of their tribe and choose their own husbands. The mother of one of the girls and the aunt of another were shot and killed while begging for the girls’ lives, according to local media reports.I don't think this kind of thing is covered enough in the mainstream press, so I'm glad to see this reported.
Houston Chronicle: Culberson, McCain differ on eliminating earmarks. More here.
Do tell, Congressman, who has checks and balances on you? I suppose he would answer that the voters do, but to make things worse, Culberson's Democratic opponent Mike Skelly, supports earmarks, too. Some choice.
Culberson said the Arizona senator is wrong to seek the elimination of earmarks, which are spending orders written into law by legislators seeking funding for specific projects, mostly in their districts. McCain has said earmarks lead to wasteful spending and corruption.
But Culberson, who sought $1 billion in earmarks last year for medical and scientific research and other projects, said Congress, not the White House, should have the power to control such use of public money.
"You have to have checks and balances," Culberson added.
This is what is so maddening about the two-party system. If you are for financial responsibility and vote in the Texas 7th Congressional District, you're out of luck. Unless you want to vote for Libertarian Drew Parks. But voting Libertarian is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
11 September 2008
10 September 2008
So what is the response of Chavez/Castro wannabe Evo Morales? Of course its, Blame the Yanquis! US Bolivia ambassador expelled
Anti-government protesters have stormed public buildings in eastern Bolivia amid a deepening row between President Evo Morales and his opponents.
The biggest protest was in Santa Cruz, where demonstrators raided several offices and clashed with riot police. Since last week, anti-government demonstrators have been blocking roads and occupying buildings in eastern regions, which are home to Bolivia's important natural gas reserves. But Tuesday saw an escalation of their action and some of the worst violence in the country for several months.
The US ambassador to Bolivia has been ordered to leave the country by President Evo Morales. Mr Morales accused Philip Goldberg of "conspiring against democracy" and encouraging the country's break up.
A US State Department spokesman said it had received no formal word of the dismissal and described the accusations against Mr Goldberg as "baseless".
Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas called on voters to back a third-party candidate for president Wednesday, rejecting his party's nominee and offering equally harsh words for the Democratic candidate.
Paul, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination this year, told supporters at the National Press Club in Washington that he is not endorsing GOP nominee Sen. John McCain or Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
Instead, Paul will give his seal of approval to four candidates: Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, independent candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.
Paul said he's supporting the third-party candidates because the two major parties and media had "colluded" to avoid discussing issues and falsely presenting the difference between McCain and Obama as real.
"I've come to the conclusion, after having spent many years in politics, is that our presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else, and I think that is true today. It is a charade," he said.
Paul offered an open endorsement to the four candidates because each signed onto a policy statement that calls for "balancing budgets, bring troops home, personal liberties and investigating the Federal Reserve," an aide to the congressman said.
Paul said a strong showing by the third-party candidates would express the public's frustration with the current system.
Uh huh. I wonder if the checks were in Spanish too. Its also being reported that the interest on Rangel's note for the villa was forgiven by the bank which would also represent an unreported "gift".
Rangel clearly abuses his position for his personal gain. The multiple rent-stabilized apartments in New York. The luxury car we pay for. The office use for fundraising. Unpaid taxes. What would your consequences be in this situation?
Obama recently compared his own executive experience favorably to Palin’s. He’s run a big campaign, he said, and she was mayor of a small town.Read the whole post.
This conveniently leaves out a few details—that he has a campaign manager, and that her most recent job description was actually governor. But let’s just take him at his word for a moment and see how that campaign of his is actually going right now.
Turns out that one of his biggest decisions, when he opted out of public financing and broke a few vows in the process, may not have been such a wise move after all.
Think about those innocent people who thought it was just going to be another day at the office. The investors. The mail room clerks. The waitstaff. The secretaries. Think about those people who were on those 4 planes and knew something bad was happening. Think about those pilots. Think about those who were frozen with fear and those who heroically did everything they could. Think about the firefighters and rescue workers. Remember those police officers. Think about those who sifted through the rubble for weeks. Remember the New York City skyline. It will never be the same. We will never be the same.
This was the Pearl Harbor of our generation and I regret how unmentioned and un-noticed it is already. Think about the people who may have called in sick that day or were stuck in traffic and are alive today because of it. Think about our stock market being shut down that week. Our airports shut down that week. Think about those people walking home across the Brooklyn Bridge that night. Have you ever walked home from work? Think about it. Think about the look in your loved one's eyes that night. The fear. The uncertainty of it all. Think about how you explained it to your kids. Think about our enemies celebrating in the streets. Televisions didn't air a single commercial for days. News programs ran non-stop. Remember the fighter planes patrolling our borders. You will probably always remember where you were when you heard.
That day, in the midst of the unspeakable tragedies that took place, Americans became better. We became better neighbors and friends. We checked on one another. We kept in touch. We were more observant and guarded. We prayed more. We exhibited national cohesion and pride. We cared more about defense. And offense.
In Texas, as kids we are taught the battle cry of San Jacinto, "Remember the Alamo". Today, remember 9/11. Really remember it. Fly the flag. Be a patriot. When you see someone in uniform, thank them. Say the pledge. Do something.
Keith Olbermann may apologize for MSNBC airing images from 9/11 and call it irresponsible and painful. But, it is necessary. We should see those images. It doesn't disgrace those who died. It reminds us of their sacrifice which serves to honor those who died. Forgetting is the real disgrace. It is painful to see and remember and think about. Its horrible. Its sad. And we should do it anyway.
I can't believe he fell into the trap of arguing for the protection of the rights of terrorists. And used comments and tone tailor-made for a Republican ad. I doubt he really wants the campaign to be about that issue.
Those traveling with the Obama campaign in recent days, like The Times Peter Nicholas, have noted a new, more emotional tone creeping into his comments. His public persona is often described as cool. But since last week, hitting the battleground states of Ohio, Michigan and Virginia as poll numbers dipped, Obama has seemed increasingly combative.
On Monday in Michigan, Obama became exercised when talking about the need to give even suspected terrorists legal rights.
“We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist,’’ he said at a campaign rally, but “it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You might think it’s Barack the bomb thrower. But it might be Barack the guy running for president.’’
Continuing, he got more heated, his voice booming. Referring to the Constitution, he said: “Don’t mock the Constitution! Don’t make fun of it! Don’t suggest that it’s un-American to abide by what the founding fathers set up! It’s worked pretty well for 200 years!!’’
He finished with a sigh: “These people."
09 September 2008
Any parent can attest that youngsters are germ factories. It takes years of nagging before they cover coughs and sneezes. Little ones tend to pick their noses. Even teenagers aren't great hand-washers. Crowded schools, preschools and day-care centers act as incubators.Why, school just started two weeks ago, and my daughter already brought home a nice head cold to both me and her mother. I'm glad these researchers are hard at work confirming what happened. Now I can blame her with a clear conscience. But I needn't worry about by tax dollars being wasted, because there's more obviousness on the way:
Brownstein's next study, paid for by the government, will track the community impact of vaccinating more school-age children.I'm sure it will again state the obvious, in that vaccinations decrease the outbreak of disease. I have a feeling that another award is on its way!
Taxpayers are on the hook for $200 billion in the takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Enron cost investors over $60 billion, which pales in comparison to the government nationalization of the mortgage industry.
The temptation to assign partisan blame will be irresistible. But for virtually every valid argument that Democrat-dominated Fan and Fred committed illegal or unethical acts, there will usually be a counterargument that a 12-year Republican congressional majority stood by and effectively enabled them — especially during the earlier part of this decade.More here at The Denver Post:
The feds will rescue anyone, it seems, except those suckers who dutifully mail their mortgage checks in on time every month. These reliable citizens, in fact, soon will be propping up the for-profit businesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (not to mention Bear Stearns) in the de facto nationalization of a huge chunk of the mortgage industry. Stockholders of Fannie and Freddie, for decades, have profited from an implicit taxpayer guarantee on their business, while pretending that such a pledge didn't exist.
Well, it does. We know this because as a reward for a feeble job done, executives may walk away with $15 million in severance pay. You? The bailout allegedly will cost taxpayers approximately $200 billion. And, as you know, federal projections are always on target.
And where will it end? Airlines already have benefited from the largesse. Detroit's auto industry, it has been reported, hopes to secure $50 billion in additional federal loans to, you know, help out.
We know that when any industry is insulated from risk, it makes reckless decisions. Economists call this "moral hazard."
Federal government is moral hazard central.
The Harlem Democrat will file amended federal, state and local tax returns to reflect $75,000 in income from the beachfront villa that he previously failed to list on tax and congressional financial disclosure forms, said his lawyer Lanny Davis.
At a news conference today, Rangel planned to release a letter he sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) explaining the Punta Cana resort deal and another asking the House ethics committee to add the matter to a burgeoning inquiry. The committee is already examining the congressman's rental of several New York apartments at below-market rates and his fundraising entreaties to corporations and foundations on behalf of an academic center that bears his name, his attorney said.
Pelosi yesterday also heard from nine House Republican leaders, who demanded that she remove Rangel from the chairmanship.
Something tells me if this was a Republican the noise about his removal would be exponentially louder.
Let us preach what we practice—let us practice what we preach.
We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us.
In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.
People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
In the end the true test is not the speeches a president delivers, it's whether the president delivers on the speeches.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is sick and may have suffered a stroke in the past month, a U.S. intelligence official said.Good. I hope that evil bastard suffers and dies. North Korea is a madhouse.
The official, who declined to be publicly identified, said it was noteworthy that Kim didn't attend the 60th anniversary celebration of North Korea's founding today. The U.S., China and other nations have been negotiating with Kim's communist dictatorship about scrapping its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic aid and broader ties.
U.S. intelligence had other reasons to believe Kim is ill, the official said, declining to describe those conclusions.
Celebrate his illness by going to NK News and be randomly insulted by the KCNA Random Insult Generator. Mine:
You black-hearted gangster, such a provocation will be regarded as a declaration of war!Right back at ya, Kim Jong Il.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday that it would no longer ban voter registration drives among veterans living at federally run nursing homes, shelters for the homeless and rehabilitation centers across the country.
Veterans’ participation could be particularly important this year in a presidential election in which the handling of the Iraq war and treatment of veterans will be major campaign issues.
Veterans officials said that they would welcome state and local election officials and nonpartisan groups to hospitals and outpatient clinics to help register voters but that such assistance needed to be coordinated by those facilities in order to avoid disruptions to patient care.
More than 100,000 people reside for a month or longer at V.A. facilities nationally, a number that has grown as soldiers return wounded from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some will say that we should try harder to understand them. But there is no point in trying to understand madness. Arab society is ill. They need mass counseling, because their thinking has gotten all screwed up.
CAIRO — Seven years later, it remains conventional wisdom here that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could not have been solely responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the United States and Israel had to have been involved in their planning, if not their execution, too.
08 September 2008
To those outside the area, Houston is in Harris County. The county government here, which controls a large budget, is run by a sorry and entrenched lot.
Establishing the ethics board was one of the top recommendations from a five-member ethics reform task force appointed by County Judge Ed Emmett in February as a wave of controversies in county government became an issue in his heated primary battle.
Emmett, who is facing criticism from his Democratic opponent over his handling of ethics reform, said he would like to adopt all of the recommendations approved by the county attorney and would like to lobby for the legislative changes needed to implement the others. "I'll put it on the agenda at the earliest opportunity," he said.
The issue probably will not be addressed until early October. He said the county attorney's guidance came too late to move forward with the plan at Tuesday's meeting, and the Sept. 23 meeting largely will be devoted to the county's mid-year budget review.
David Mincberg, Emmett's opponent in November, said the reforms are long overdue.
Venezuela's naval intelligence chief, Adm. Salbatore Cammarata Bastidas, said in a statement that a task force including four Russian naval vessels and 1,000 Russian military personnel would take part in mid-November exercises with Venezuelan frigates, patrol boats, submarines and aircraft.The Bush Administration isn't worried: U.S. unsure of Russia-Venezuela exercises
I guess with all the oil revenues, the Russians and the Venezuelans have money to burn by playing navy.
While Sean McCormack, assistant U.S. secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters in Washington he hadn't seen Russia confirm Venezuela's claim of the warship training maneuvers in the Southern Hemisphere, "but I suppose if it is, in fact, true, then they found a few ships that can make it that far."
McCormack said it would be "probably overstating it" to call Russia's participation in Venezuelan exercises an intrusion into the United States' sphere of geographical influence and control.
I hope so to.
At issue is Spraygregen's refusal to sell four buildings (all part of his Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage business) to Columbia so the University can proceed with a 17-acre west Harlem expansion that president Lee Bolinger describes as necessary for Columbia to "continue to be one of the great Universities of the world." From the outset, Columbia has dangled the threat of eminent domain over the heads of Sprayregen and his fellow property holders, scaring all but two into cutting their losses and selling their land.
"Property rights abuse is running rampant, but what's unique in this instance is that eminent domain always seems to be used against the down-and-out, people who can't afford to fight back in a meaningful way. I can. But I think it's anti-American that I'm probably on the losing side. "
Back in July, the Empire State Development Corporation declared the entire 17-acre site to be "blighted," which is the invariable prelude to eminent domain proceedings. Today's New York Sun reports that Columbia is pushing hard for the property, declaring that this "vital" project requires city and state support. Sprayregen, whose lawyer is the famed civil libertarian Norman Siegel, promises to take the fight to the Supreme Court. Here's hoping this one turns out better than Kelo.
Of all the reforms that could be made within the government school system, changing the structure of teacher pay has the biggest potential to dramatically improve the system.
Why does the system attract low-performing teachers and repel high-performing ones? It’s primarily because the teacher salary system is designed to ensure this result. Teacher pay is based almost entirely on two factors: years of experience and the possession of teaching certificates and credentials. A large body of empirical evidence establishes that neither of these has much relationship to actual teacher quality. Teacher pay bears no effective connection to teacher performance.
Meanwhile, in all the other professions, high performers are paid better and low performers are paid worse.Think about what that means for people who are deciding whether to become teachers. Those who would make great teachers will consistently be paid better in any other profession besides teaching, while those who would make bad teachers will consistently be paid better as teachers than in any other profession.
A Harvard economist ran the numbers historically for the past half-century or so, and found that the decline in teacher quality didn’t track with the rise of opportunities for women in other professions. It did, however, track closely with the unionization of the teaching profession — which is another way of saying that it tracked with the imposition of the current pay system.
There are few issues more important than teacher quality, and there is no serious way of improving teacher quality very much until we deal with the pay system. It’s that simple.
This followed the McCain campaign's complaints over Olbermann's panty-wad whine-fest over a 9/11 tribute video which was shown at the GOP Convention.
I'm sorry? Not appropriate to be shown? I don't think it was graphic enough. I suppose we could all just forget it ever happened.
Olberman has his audience just the same as O'Reilly on Fox. It just can't be sold as news.
07 September 2008
The media doesn't often go into how that translates into electoral votes. In electoral votes, Obama still has a big advantage going into the week. If the numbers below don't add up, it's because I left out the toss-up states:
Election Projection shows Obama with 278 electoral votes and McCain with 260.
Electoral-vote.com shows Obama with 301 electoral votes and McCain with 224.
FiveThirtyEight.com shows Obama with 303.9 electoral votes and McCain with 234.1.
Coldheartedtruth shows Obama with 293 electoral votes and McCain with 245.
The Hedgehog Report shows Obama with 332 electoral votes and McCain with 206.
Election Junkie shows Obama with 298 electoral votes and McCain with 240.
The polling numbers from over the weekend would have to continue for a few weeks for the electoral vote projections to adjust. The race remains Obama's to lose.
There was a TV movie back in the 80s about this. (Update: it was 1981, man IMDb has everything) The students get caught up in it, start making these hand sign salutes. At the end of course, the teacher reveals a big picture of Hitler, and lectures them on how easily they all became fascists. I remembered the show when I posted the story about the idiot who wanted to start a special Obama salute. The real story of "The Third Wave" is here.
In fact the experiment - known as the Wave - actually took place, in April 1967 at Cubberley High School, Northern California. Ron Jones, the teacher, had arrived there straight from training college. He soon became famed for his unorthodox methods: making students at the almost all-white school use different toilets to demonstrate apartheid, for instance.
At the end of the week - in life and in the film - the teacher announces a new national political party, with a new leader. Only then is the hoax revealed. "We were in a state of shock; there were kids crying," recalls ex-pupil Mark Hancock. "He wound that class up as tight as a drum."
The success of Jones's experiment seems, at first, incredible. The Sixties were in full swing, the anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements were gathering speed, and the Summer of Love was dawning up in San Francisco.
Paradoxically, the German-language The Wave has yet to find a distributor in the US, a country never short of big ideas, especially in an election year. "People want to throw themselves behind a cause," Gansel insists. "And we hope to show how that can turn bad, much faster than we imagine. There is a strong urge today for a big idea that is bigger than yourself. Not necessarily fascism; it could be, say, the Green movement."
No one questions it when the far right falls into this type of mindset. I find it interesting that the director linked this idea of collectivist behavior with the Green Movement. I used to always be surprised by how readily the far left takes to this sort of behavior, until I read Liberal Fascism. Both the far left and the far right succumb to these patterns of behavior.
Venezuela? No, the USA: Government Seizes Mortgage Finance Giants. Costs to Taxpayers in Tens of Billions
Mr. Paulson refused to say how much capital the government might eventually have to provide, or what the ultimate cost to taxpayers might be. The companies are likely to need tens of billions of dollars over the next year, but the ultimate cost to taxpayers will largely depend on how fast the housing and mortgage markets recover.
More here from Open Left: Mortgage Industry Nationalized
Well, here's one Whig who's not in favor of nationalizing the mortgage industry.
I mean, the day after the Republican convention, which included countless attacks on big government, the Republican administration goes out an nationalizes a major industry. It will probably be done in the corporate welfare style typical of American government--privatize the profits, socialize the risk--but it is still nationalization.
Voters, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Conservatives, Moderates, Progressives, Greens--everyone is in favor of "big government" moves like nationalizing the mortgage industry now. And yet, all of those same people keep talking about how terrible big government is, and how we need to stop it.
More here from Next Right: (I have posted nearly the entire post, he responded to the Open Left post above)
This is not a left-wing criticism - it's a genuine problem, both for the country (as illustrated by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae going "under government control") and for the Right (which sets itself up to lose a fight about the size of government with every intervention in industry). This is how government grows...
1. Socialize Risk: Government intervenes in an industry to "solve" some apparent and visible problem. This is done "for the people."
2. Unintended Consequences: This intervention merely shifts the costs to new areas and sweeps problems under the carpet, where they accumulate.
3. Blame The Market: Government intervention is not blamed, because the people who support it assume their good intentions could not be responsible for bad things.
4. Socialize Profit: The Left demands Something Be Done by people with Good Intentions. Politicians comply. This is done "for the people."
Unfortunately, our political structure comes at this from four different places.
Democratic politicians, organizations and activists are happy to go along with Steps 1-4, because, hey, #4 was their goal in the first place. Republican politicians and organizations go along with Steps 1-3, only objecting at Step #4. By which time it is too late. Business goes along with Step #1, and attempts to use Step #2 to get more of Step #1. Libertarians believe the problem occurs at Step #1. Once Step #1 is conceded, we've already lost on steps 2-4. But libertarians and limited government conservatives have relatively little power.
Now, we are at Step #4 - essentially nationalizing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
By the time a new president is sworn in, there is a good chance the economy will have stalled again, and the hope for a relatively quick rebound will have given way to the fear of a protracted slowdown.
The next administration must therefore have a second dose of medicine ready that is stronger, more enduring, and different in kind from the first stimulus program of tax rebates and tax cuts for business. Tax rebates may have been appropriate for an economy entering a standard cyclical downturn. But this is clearly not a normal business recession. It is a post-bubble slowdown involving a painful de-leveraging of America's household and financial sectors. This means that consumers and housing will be struggling for some time, and that new sources of growth are needed.
An economic recovery program built around public infrastructure investment and demand for American technology would be more effective in stimulating the economy in the short term, and far better for it in the long run, than would another round of tax rebates for American consumers.
Second, standard stimulus programs generally are too modest to make a substantial difference to the parts of the economy affected by the bursting of the housing and credit bubbles. Third, the standard stimulus measures are too focused on consumption and not enough on investment.
There are two areas of enormous pent-up demand on which such a recovery program can be based. The first and most important is the pent-up demand in the United States for public infrastructure improvements in everything from roads and bridges to broadband and air traffic control systems to new energy infrastructure.
The other significant source of potential growth is the enormous pent-up demand in China and other emerging economies for both consumer goods and the productivity-enhancing and energy-efficient technology needed to sustain both corporate profitability and rising living standards.
The main pillar of an economic recovery and growth program must be a massive increase in public infrastructure investment, in part because it has the greatest multiplier effect of any stimulus and also because it provides the foundation for private investment in the productive economy. There is increasing public recognition that two decades of underinvestment in public infrastructure has created a backlog of public infrastructure needs that is undermining our economy's efficiency and costing us billions in lost income and economic growth.
Expanded public infrastructure investment in the United States and the transition to intensive, energy-efficient growth in emerging economies will greatly increase the demand for American-made technology, setting the stage for new investment in a wide range of American technology companies.
With the right technology and competitiveness policies, we will be able to take advantage of the increased global demand for technology to spur investment in a cluster of new growth companies. In the process, we will be able to broaden the productive base of the American economy and create millions of new jobs that pay middle-class wages, helping to reverse the slow growth in wages that has held back living standards over the past several decades.
No, I do not think Obama is a Muslim. He is a Christian. But it is sure to give ammunition to all those out there who think otherwise. It won't hurt him though, as they weren't voting for him anyway.
Away from a teleprompter, he is more gaffe-prone that the media lets on.
Zardari , who won a two-thirds majority in a secret ballot among lawmakers on Saturday, will be sworn in as leader of the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic state and frontline US "war on terror" ally on Tuesday.
The new president -- the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto -- will take charge of a country that has been riven by Islamic militancy, with nearly 1,200 people killed in bombings and suicide attacks in the past year.
The militant threat was underscored in the northwestern city of Peshawar during voting Saturday, when a suicide car-bomber rammed a police checkpost killing 33 people and wounding more than 80.
The unrest is seen as a backlash by militants angry at the support given to the United States by former president Pervez Musharraf, whose August 18 resignation triggered Saturday's election.
"I will work to defeat the domestic Taliban insurgency and to ensure that Pakistani territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on our neighbours or on NATO forces in Afghanistan," Zardari said in an editorial before his win.
Why do I get the distinct feeling this will come back to haunt us down the line?
06 September 2008
One particular work invoked the sacred, picturing Obama's great head--illuminated by sunbursts--emerging from the clouds over a bare-breasted maiden who is robed in an American flag and emerging from a volcano. Note that in the lower-right-hand corner an assemblage of people are literally kneeling before Obama.
Pajamas Media proposes: Obama’s Existential Crisis -- The wheels are starting to come off the Messiah Express.
I sure hope so.
The Democratic Party gamble in this election was hedged on a bet that the Obama campaign could maintain the media’s focus and the electorate’s attention on “The One” to divert attention from all of his attached inside-the-Beltway strings. That illusion has been shattered. For the first time in this campaign, Obama is playing catch-up.
Meanwhile, Obama’s public image has suddenly begun to revert from the carefully choreographed caricature of the bike-riding savior of the planet to the more candid and accurate picture of the Chicago political machine operative with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
I don't agree with most of the rest of the above article, which is positive to McCain-Palin. When the author states, "the Obama campaign has always been about big government liberalism, labor union dinosaurs, and K Street fat-cat lobbyists — Washington politics as usual" you could easily say the Republican campaign is about big government conservatism, earmarks, big business, and the same K Street fat-cat lobbyists, McCain's recent comments attempting to distance himself from Republicans in Congress notwithstanding.
The unchallenged media narrative of Obama as Savior has to end sometime, and that disillusionment has to set in at some point, after all the lofty rhetoric. If it occurs prior to the election, that's much better than it coming after Obama has been elected.
05 September 2008
Under the plan, which could prompt one of the most sweeping government interventions in the workings of financial markets in U.S. history, federal officials would place the firms under a conservatorship, a legal status giving the government the option and time to restructure and revive the companies...
The action would represent a major escalation of the government's role in private lending. The government would be assuming vast obligations it has historically disavowed, potentially using taxpayer money to make up for private business decisions gone wrong.
If the plan is enacted, it would bring under direct government control two companies that have a long and complicated history as hybrid public and private entities. In July, with the companies reeling for losses and as fears grew that they wouldn't eb able to raise new cash privately, Paulson gained the power to invest government money in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through loans or buying company stock if he concludes it is necessary. In approving the authority, Congress gave Paulson power to invest an unlimited sum.
John McCain hit the "reform" theme hard in his speech last night, and I couldn't help but wonder: What does McCain actually plan to change about government?
What about cleaning up the executive branch? We could look at all the ways the Bush administration has let hacks, cronies, and industry lobbyists infiltrate every level of government. Would McCain chart a different course? How?
Are McCain and Palin going to grab by the "scruff of the neck" all of those Republican loyalists in the federal government who got hired because of their fealty to Bush rather than their competence? As far as I can tell, McCain has never promised anything of the sort.
Probably not all that important, but I found it interesting. Operating a navy is really expensive, so this is an unusual move. The Malaysians must be really fed up.
Malaysia is sending three navy ships to the coast of Somalia to protect merchant vessels from piracy. The ships, carrying troops and helicopters, are expected to begin patrolling in the Gulf of Aden in the next few days.
Two Malaysian tankers from the shipping line MISC Berhad were seized last month by Somali pirates. The seas off Somalia, close to busy shipping routes, have some of the highest rates of piracy in the world.
Everyone hates their Internet service provider. And with good cause: In the age of ubiquitous Internet access, Web service in America is still often frustratingly slow.
The ISPs have put forward two big ideas, in recent months, about how to fix our bandwidth crisis. We can arrange these plans into two categories: horrible now and horrible later.
Plan One: Feed the meter. Category: Horrible now. A plan like this, as its many opponents have noted, will cramp the freewheeling, inventive nature of the Internet.
Plan Two: Blame BitTorrent. Category: Horrible later. This plan is "horrible later" because it fails to account for the natural evolution of the Web toward larger file sizes and higher bandwidth activities.
More people have been becoming infected with measles lately, at the same time as more parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids. A concern among such parents is their belief that the vaccine is linked to autism.
Researchers at Columbia University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought to allay some of their fears today, releasing study results they said showed “no connection” between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism in kids.